Best Projects 2019 features all the nominated entries submitted ‘Submit your Project’ category. All the entries consist of innovative projects run by existing enterprises in the form of businesses, NGOs or informal programs.
Frutas y Verduras Mexico
Explain your project in details:
Mexican food is commonly thought of as being heavy on meat and dairy. Yet the vast majority of indigenous people, the true guardians of culture are sustained by regional plant foods. Through culinary and gastronomy focused activities we impart this plant-based wisdom to travellers and expats. By building collaborations with bilingual hosts-guides-teachers, knowledgeable and skilled in culinary, gastronomy and/or cultural anthropology, we offer guided taste and culture experiences such as facilitated workshops giving a platform to indigenous locals; cooking classes for expats to familiarize them with using local plant ingredients; tasting tours for visitors that explore sustainable practices such as eating the weeds, using the whole plant. We aim to provide resources and experiential education to encourage foreign visitors and new residents to consume/shop locally, putting money into local hands; making an active contribution to indigenous food sovereignty; reinforcing connection to foods that contribute to better health and preservation of heritage and overall to be responsible as travellers and new residents. As intercultural exchange: currently, we offer a facilitated workshop in Merida giving a Mayan woman a platform to share plant-based recipes that are part of her community's daily diet. While she demonstrates preparations of indigenous ingredients, she, in turn, learns from foreign guests as they contribute ideas on how they might use the same ingredient in ways familiar to them (As in: "this reminds me of...")
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
Travellers and new foreign (affluent) residents have the power to make a daily contribution to the economic and personal health of the indigenous people who sell fresh fruits and vegetables for their livelihoods, by simply choosing to shop from them. By getting to know the unfamiliar plant-based options that are sold by vendors as street-foods, those who seek an "authentic experience" can actively make a difference. Mexico is plagued by chronic health problems, especially diabetes. Starting with the introduction of large animals for meat post-Colonization, and continuing through the centuries with industrialization, NAFTA, globalization, Mexico's poor have been further impoverished. As migrant money brings hard currency to traditional communities and Coke continues to maintain its stronghold, cheap convenience foods gain while communal farming suffers. Our target market are people who care about their own diets, the health of the planet, and are concerned about the poverty of Mexico's indigenous. Mexico is not seen as a vegetarian or vegan-friendly destination. We can change that view and do good with it. By maintaining contact with our guests through a Facebook group as well as mailings, we can obtain data through surveys, to potentially track behavioral changes before/after participating in an activity (eg: where they shop for produce: Costco, Walmart, or local Zapotec market vendor and what ingredients they buy) We see this model as having value in other parts of the world to preserve indigenous foodways, promote food sovereignty, and the health, well-being and cultural pride of those communities.
Sustainability and future plans
This has been a bootstrapped business from its first stage: the creation of the eBook: "Frutas y Verduras - A Fresh Food Lover's Guide to Mexico" which I researched, wrote, photographed and designed with minimal assistance. I partially funded this through a crowdfunding campaign but largely with sweat equity". The tours and classes have depended on collaborations. The financing source then becomes the customer, whose bookings are slowly providing us with resources to further our activities. As we build credibility through positive reviews, we can grow by inviting more collaborations as well as appealing to more customers. As an organization, we wish to create a supportive environment so that collaborators can learn from one another and improve their offerings. Among the projects planned: -regional plant-based "scavenger hunt" apps that encourage travelers to seek out ingredients that can only be bought from locals. - a series of short videos that show this lesser known side of Mexico's gastronomy focused on concepts inspired by " la cocina del pobre" (AKA peasant food) such as foraging, eating the "weeds". (collaboration with NomadCook) - podcast series in collaboration with one of our guides (Culinaria Nacional - on Soundcloud)
Your profile as an entrepreneur
In my experience as a citizen of this world, I have had several iterations. Now, I am 52. In my college studies, I obtained a BFA in Design. While my area of expertise was metal-smithing, I learned to create, ideate, analyze and solve problems in general. Now, this is referred to as "design-thinking". Craving more connection to people, and wanting to have more of an impact, after 18 years as a designer, I followed another interest that had been a sideline career: culinary. I made use of those skills to become a Personal Chef, for families with the objective to unify them at the table and for people with health issues. I took this same motivation with me to Mexico where I identified that the exchange of healthy foods between cultures and socio-economic groups had enormous potential to solve problems. I have learned by actively doing, interacting, researching and connecting without accolades, awards etc. I'm an AltMBA (Seth Godin) alumni, and recently completed The Business of Food Workshop led by William Rosenzweig (Republic of Tea) and that's where I find my tribe.